MovieBob - Intermission
Oh, I Want to Be in That Number

Bob Chipman | 6 Nov 2009 17:00
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"I've never met a cautionary tale before."

I've been trying to force that sentence out of my head since it popped in on the subway. At some point earlier in life - probably High School - I developed a reflex of hatching snarky zingers for every possible situation and holstering them just-in-case; the illusion of quick wit in place of confidence. (In that respect, it's similar to my reflex of padding press-event reports with personal anecdotes.) I've lost count how many times it's saved me from getting slapped versus times it's gotten me slapped.

I'm in the upstairs area of an Irish pub in downtown Boston, seated with a sampling of fellow web-based movie critics. Across the table from us are actors Sean Patrick Flanery, Norman Reedus and Billy Conolly - the stars of "Boondock Saints II" - and Troy Duffy, the film's director. Duffy, as it happens, is seated opposite me... and, as it also happens, my unasked-for zinger intends itself for him.

In context, I say with whatever modesty possible, it's a good line: "Cautionary Tale" neatly encapsulates Duffy's existence as a pop culture figure. While legions of "Boondock Saints" fans would have it otherwise; most of the cinephile world knows him from "Overnight," a documentary following the sudden rise and calamitous collapse of his career during production of "Saints" - a collapse, the documentary strongly suggests, resulting from Duffy's own out-of-control ego. The figure glimpsed in the film is, literally, a walking "don't" list: An aspiring filmmaker who treats his unprecedented success as the long-overdue recognition of his own self-assured greatness, rather than a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

"I've never met a cautionary tale before."

So, it's kinda true. And delivered correctly, it'd be funny. The sort of deadpan that someone would toss off in some arch, anachronistic hard-bitten crime movie like... well, like "Boondock Saints," honestly. And in that movie, it'd be followed by a false-tease of tense silence... then the guy on the receiving end would laugh, declare that the joke teller "had some balls on him" and they'd all get back to planning the heist or whatever. In real life, on the other hand, one gets the sense that it's the sort of thing that'd land a movie journalist on some mythical studio "jerk list" of people that the talent doesn't want to talk to.

But more importantly than that, it simply seems like a real dick move. Whatever was or wasn't accurate about "Overnight," Duffy has fought back from one of the most spectacular falls in late 20th Century film history. "Boondock Saints" was a near-implosion that almost ended him, but instead became a slow-burn cult classic, and now he and the whole cast have reunited for a sequel. That's an impressive feat, and the sheer resiliency commands a certain respect. What really gives me the right to dump on the guy in the midst of what can only be called a personal triumph, especially since I liked both movies?

So I shake Duffy's hand, then the rest of the cast, and after the introductions we all sit down and get to it. The actors seem oddly tickled to learn that this particular group all hails from the internet side. "The Dot-Communists!" Billy Connolly declares us, to a giddy response from his fellows. We'll learn, subsequently, that there's rather little that one of the quartet can say that won't elicit a giddy response from the others. "This is how it is on set," Duffy mentions more than once, and I believe it. The infectious onscreen chemistry shared by Flanery and Reedus' characters - self-styled urban vigilantes working out Irish-Catholic angst through gunplay - is the same chemistry displayed here in person. Flanery is a live-wire, spontaneously slipping in and out of his real voice and a repertoire of accents and impressions, while Reedus leans over the table with an eerie, captivating confidence seemingly more suited to a rock frontman than an action star.

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